U.S. Manufacturing Orders Up After Six Months of Decline

Orders increased 1.8%

New orders for manufactured goods rose in February after six consecutive monthly declines, the Commerce Department said on April 2 in a new sign that industrial activity may have hit bottom.

Orders increased $6.1 billion or 1.8% to $352.2 billion following a hefty 3.5% January decrease, the department said.

Giving a breakdown, the department said new orders for manufactured durable goods in February was up following six consecutive monthly decreases -- by $5.6 billion or 3.5% to $164.7 billion.

New orders for manufactured nondurable goods increased $500 million or 0.3% to $187.4 billion.

Analysts remain cautious of any signs of U.S. recovery from prolonged recession. "Though the February report offers a glimmer of hope that business investment spending may have reached a bottom or be nearing a bottom, consumers remain on the sidelines," said Marisa Di Natale of Moody's Economy.com.

Orders for consumer durable goods, which include automobiles, appliances and the like, continued to fall, she noted.

"This may in part reflect declining prices for some of these big-ticket items, especially autos, which are being discounted heavily at the moment," she said.

The Institute of Supply Management said on April 1 the U.S. manufacturing sector contracted in March for a 14th consecutive month but the pace of decline eased. The ISM said its index of the factory sector, also known as the purchasing managers index, rose slightly to 36.3% from 35.8% in February.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009

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